WHO? – Every person age 18 years and older should have Powers of Attorney.

WHAT? – A current legally effective Power of Attorney for Health Care and Power of Attorney for Property/Financial Matters.

WHERE? – For the person’s state of residence and ideally, each other state where the person spends significant time [for example, where a “snowbird” spends the winter months (such as Florida or Arizona); or where a person spends the summer months (such as Wisconsin or Indiana)].

WHEN? – There is no time like the present. Planning of this type should not be put off because accidents or illness can strike any one –any time - without warning.

HOW? – The estate planning attorneys of Lillig & Thorsness, Ltd. bring their expertise to guide you through the process.

WHY? – To avoid the cost – delay – and uncertainty – of Court guardianship proceedings in the event of a disabling accident, injury, or health crisis.

A Power of Attorney is the document which gives the person of your choice, such as a spouse, adult child, relative or trusted friend (called, the “agent”) the legal authority to act for you (called, the “principal”) according to the terms and for the time in the document. A Power of Attorney can be very broad, or restricted. It can be for a limited period of time, such as to handle financial matters while the principal is out of the country. More generally the Power of Attorney is open-ended (“durable”) so the agent can act when the principal is disabled due to an accident or health condition and unable to make and to communicate decisions in financial and property matters or health care.

In Illinois, the Health Care Power of Attorney and the Property Power of Attorney are usually separate documents. The Property Power of Attorney can cover real estate, gifts, personal property, banking, insurance, and tax matters. The Health Care Power of Attorney can include authority to make decisions ranging from giving, withholding or stopping medical treatments and therapies to end-of-life decisions.

Once a person is age 18, privacy and constitutional rights prevent anyone else – even a spouse, a parent or an adult child – from getting access to records or acting legally on his or her behalf even if the person is disabled by accident, illness or injury. Without a Power of Attorney, a party must go to the Court to have a Guardian appointed over an incapacitated individual. Guardianship is expensive, inconvenient, and often slow. It also puts the choice of Guardian in the hands of the Court as opposed to the individual, so the appointment is unpredictable.

A principal can revoke the Power of Attorney at any time, provided the principal has capacity, or the Power of Attorney will terminate at the stated termination date or upon the principal’s death if durable.

A well-drafted Power of Attorney allows you, the principal, to make the decisions, and choose the agents to act on your behalf, even including gifting, implementing estate and tax planning, planning for other governmental benefits as may be appropriate and implementing health care decisions. It is an essential part of every estate plan.

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